Although tummy tucks produce stunning results, patients worry about scarring—which is completely understandable! Scars are a scary prospect, especially since they become more noticeable and prominent in the early healing stages before they begin to fade. Abdominoplasty scars appear as horizontal lines on the lower abdomen, between the pubis and belly button. They typically span from hip to hip but could extend farther depending on the tummy tuck method. Tummy tuck surgeons place the incisions low enough to be easily hidden in the panty line, but patients still want to know what to expect as their tummy tuck scars heal. Tummy tuck scars heal in stages, and each phase requires unique attention.
The First 3 to 6 Months: Scar Formation and Collagen Production
The first healing stage after a tummy tuck is scar formation. Immediately after surgery, your scars will be invisible, as that stage has not yet begun. Your body will start to produce collagen to mend the broken tissue. This collagen fills in the gaps and seals the wound. The first stage of scar formation takes approximately one month, during which you will begin to notice your linear scar becoming pinker in color. New collagen will develop over the next few months, causing the already formed scar to appear redder and lumpier. Since the body is supplying more blood to the area, it will look raised and might feel rough to the touch. The collagen-production stage can take between three to six months. Contact your surgeon as soon as possible if your scar is turning blue, develops drainage, or opens up.
One Year Post-Tummy Tuck: Scar Maturity and Final Healing Stages
The healing process has reached its final stage once the collagen on your tummy tuck scar has matured. You will notice the scar become thinner, smoother, lighter as the blood supply around it decreases. It will take your scar a year to mature, but it will progressively lighten once it does. Those with light-colored skin are prone to bright red scars, whereas those with more melanated flesh might develop darker ones. Therefore, as the scars heal, they fade into a lighter pink or silvery grey color. Plastic surgeons often provide their patients with scar-care routines and offer laser treatments to help shrink these scars faster and more efficiently.
Irregular Tummy Tuck Scars
There are two types of abnormal scars that can develop after a tummy tuck: hypertrophic scars and keloid scars. Hypertrophic scars are raised, thickened scars that usually do not extend more than four millimeters above the skin's surface. These scars result from an overproduction of collagen during the healing process, where extra connective tissue forms in the scarred area. Hypertrophic scars don't extend beyond the incision's boundaries, while in contrast, keloid scars do. Keloid scars are large, shiny round nodules that can appear at the incision site and surrounding areas a few months to a year after surgery. The causes of these abnormal scars are not entirely known. Statistics show that patients between the ages of 20 and 30, those with a family history of atypical scarring, and those with darker skin are more susceptible to getting hypertrophic and keloid scars than those with lighter skin.
Preventing Abnormal Scarring
The best way to avoid abnormal scarring (especially if you are prone to developing keloids and hypertrophic scars) is to care for your wound properly. Keep it clean. Do not use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can impede the healing process. Instead, wash the area with mild, soapy water and pat it dry. Keep in mind, you may have to wait 24 to 48 hours to shower until your drainage tubes are removed. Healing scars can darken and become more noticeable if they become sunburned. Keep your tummy tuck scar out of the sun for the first six months after your operation and cover it with sunscreen or tape when you're outside in the daylight. If this seems like a daunting task, don't fret. You won’t be alone in this process! You'll receive additional instructions from your plastic surgeon on how to take care of your surgical incision after abdominoplasty to prevent irregular scarring.
Avana Plastic Surgery offers advanced laser treatments to improve scars' appearance and help them fade to near invisibility. Contact our expert tummy tuck surgeons at (305) 501-6000 for a free consultation.